Jesse a news source who always answeredBy Julie S. Alipala
From controversial issues such as the launching of an all-out war against those behind the ambush-killing of 19 soldiers of the Army’s Special Forces in October last year in Basilan to simple questions as to how his first name should be spelled, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo made sure he responded—even late at night through text messages or calls.
He was not the kind of official who evaded questions, even if these were the most critical ones.
Covering Robredo’s visit in Zamboanga City since he was named interior secretary in 2010 gave this reporter a glimpse of how he was as a person and a government official.
For him, a governor and a peasant are no different; they were on equal footing. He had said that no special treatment should be accorded to anybody just because they are more affluent or because they were government officials.
At one time, he devoted so much attention to a teacher airing the plight of colleagues in violence-prone areas in Basilan during a peace and order council meeting there. He made sure the concern of the teacher was answered. He even sounded like a father to a confused child.
Robredo was the hands-on type, personally attending to concerns reaching his office.
An example was the case of two missing children, aged 8 and 11 years, who were later found dead in Barangay Talon-talon village in Zamboanga City in July.
Robredo sent a text message to this reporter to ask how barangay and police officials had responded to the disappearance of the youngsters. He even sought this reporter’s help so the families of the victims could file a complaint if the actions of the barangay and police officials were unsatisfactory.
His concern was in direct contrast to another official, who washed their hands over the incident because the children had died outside the school and that it happened on a weekend.
No wonder Robredo was able to give direct answers even to the nagging issue of what the government was doing to address the peace and order condition, for example of Basilan.
One aspect of that issue was answered when Robredo brought to the peace table the Akbars and the Hatamans. The two clans’ feud was so intense that several members have died violently, among them former Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar, who was killed in a bomb explosion at the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City.
“Never forget this day, June 5, 2012, when two influential families agreed to forget the painful past so they can start a new one for the sake of their children and your children and we make sure the covenant will not just become another piece of a signed paper, but whatever is in that paper will be fully observed and put into action,” Robredo proclaimed after the two sides signed a peace covenant.